What makes this year’s Maui Invitational so historically good is that you had big-named programs such as Gonzaga, UCLA, and Syracuse in it and they weren’t even in the top-4 of the group. There were four other top-10 programs in the field, all of whom won their opening games in the tournament, including against this field.
Still, Gonzaga was able to finish in 5th-place in this field, beating both Syracuse and UCLA in the consolation bracket. The other two didn’t fare as well, only winning against non-DI program Chaminade in the field. Still, there are some things to take away from this group of teams as they continue their respective non-con campaigns. Here are my thoughts on each team.
7th-place Syracuse Orange
Positive takeaway: Mintz/Starling backcourt shows signs of improvement
The final scores in the two losses to Gonzaga and Tennessee don’t show how completive they were at times in the second half. And they were spearheaded by the sophomore starters, with Mintz going for 22 points vs the Bulldogs to keep them in the game. Both players are score-first but they each are averaging over four assists a game. They’re a work in progress but there’s definitely long-term potential with this young roster.
Negative takeaways: Role players need to avoid bad games
Mintz and Starling can’t do it all and with respect to 7’4 center Naheem McLeod, the offensive production is going to come down to the guards and wings. Yet in order to have a shot against better opponents, can’t have 0-fers. Justin Taylor went scoreless in 28 minutes in the loss to Tennessee, while Chris Bell shot 2/18 from the field in the defeat to Gonzaga. If those guys could’ve had little better games, maybe the Orange would’ve had a real shot.